California's Medi-Cal opens offering of health insurance to illegal migrants

Offering makes the state the first to issue such a benefit to undocumented immigrants

California's Medi-Cal opens offering of health insurance to illegal migrants

Life & Health

By Jonalyn Cueto

Effective January 1, 2024, undocumented immigrants aged 26 to 49 have become eligible for full medical coverage under California’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal. The news comes as more than 1.5 million migrants move to the southern state every year to seek shelter in California’s Democrat-run “sanctuary cities,” according to a Daily Mail UK report.

This makes California the first state to offer universal health insurance to illegal migrants. Previously, undocumented immigrants were not qualified to receive health insurance under Medi-Cal, with exemptions for emergency cases and pregnancy-related issues.

Providing health care access to all Californians

In 2022, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers agreed to provide medical coverage to all low-income adults regardless of their immigration status through Medi-Cal. According to an Associated Press report, the expansion will eventually cost the state about $3.1 billion per year.

Another Daily Mail UK said the California Senate Republican Caucus has criticized the move, emphasizing the state’s Medicaid program is “already strained by serving 14.6 million Californians – more than a third of the state's population. Adding 764,000 more individuals to the system will certainly exacerbate current provider access problems.” Newsom’s office told ABC News that “in California, we believe everyone deserves access to quality, affordable health care coverage – regardless of income or immigration status.”

“Through this expansion, we're making sure families and communities across California are healthier, stronger, and able to get the care they need when they need it,” said Newsom.

State Senator Maria Elena Durazo has welcomed the news, saying opening up Medi-Cal to undocumented California migrants has been a goal for health and immigration advocates for years. “This historic investment speaks to California's commitment to health care as a human right,” she said.

In 2015, the previous governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that allowed only undocumented children to join Medi-Cal as long as they meet eligibility requirements, including income limits and California residency. In 2019, Newsom signed a law granting eligibility to those younger than 26, and in May, California started covering people aged 50 and over, according to the Daily Mail UK report. In addition, Medi-Cal is available to people with certain medical conditions as well as those who are pregnant, blind, disabled, under age 21, living in a nursing home or are a recently settled refugee.

Sarah Dar, director of Health and Public Benefits Policy at the California Immigrant Policy Center said the “budget investment reflects California's values of inclusion and fairness and should be a model for the rest of the nation.”

“All Californians, regardless of their age or where they were born, should have access to basic necessities like food and fair, steady wages,” Dar said.

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